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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

T34                                 THE GAY GENIUS

What's illusion now, and what reality?
Your arm bears witness to love's longing,    ,
This time you shall pay love's penalty."

The monk was sent to the execution ground and beheaded. Comic
poems, such as.the two above, written in the language of the day,
quickly passed from mouth to mouth and added to the current gossip
about this eccentric genius.

Among such stories there was a small collection of tales about Su
Tungpo and his friend the pleasure-loving monk Foyin. At this period
Su Tungpo had not taken up Buddhism seriously; it was only after
he was forty, during his period at Huangchow, that he began an inten-
sive study of Buddhist philosophy. But some of the monks of Hang-
chow became his best friends, and in time he gathered more and more
friends among the monks of Chinkiang, Nanking, and Lushan as well.
Among them, two at least, Huichin and Tsanliao, were poets and
scholars worthy of respect. From the literary records, Foyin was not
important. But he cut a romantic figure, and in popular literature he,
rather than Tsanliao, became most frequently talked about as the friend
of Su Tungpo.

Foyin had never intended to be a monk. Furthermore, he came from
a wealthy family. According to one curious story, he was born of the
same mother as Leeding. Apparently the woman was a loose char-
acter and had married three times, having three sons by three different
husbands—quite a record in those days. When the Emperor gave an
audience to Buddhist believers as a gesture towards Buddhism, Su*
Tungpo presented this man at court. Foyin tried to impress the
Emperor with his ardent conviction in the Buddhist faith. The
Emperor looked at him and saw a tall, handsome man with an unusual
face, and graciously said that he would be glad to give a monetary
grant, the so-called tutieh, to endow him in a monastery if he would
join the church. Finding himself in a quandary, he could not but
accept the Emperor's suggestion, and thus he had to enter a religious
order. While he was living in Hangchow, legend says he used to travel
with a whole retinue of servants and pack-mules, in a far from ascetic
way of life.                                                                                        ,

Foyin was quite a wit. One of the better stories with a philosophiJj
point told about these two men runs as follows. Su Tungpo was one^
day visiting a temple with Foyin. Entering the front temple, they saw
two fierce-looking giant idols whb were conceived as conquerors of the
,evil spirits and were placed there to guard the entrance.

"Of these two buddhas," asked Su Tungpo, "which is the more
important?"

**T!*e one who has a big fist, of course,5* replied Foyin.